The passing of Aretha Franklin (the “Queen of Soul”)

The passing of Aretha Franklin (the “Queen of Soul”) serves as another unfortunate example of the damaging effects of not creating a clear and detailed will. A will is a legal document by which individual states their wishes as to how their property is to be distributed at death. Relatives of Ms. Franklin had mentioned that there was no existence of a will upon her passing. However, there have recently been located three handwritten documents inside the home. One was written on a notebook hidden under the cushion of a sofa, and the rest locked away in a cabinet. Franklin’s estate believes these documents to be her intended wills as they lay out how Ms. Franklin’s assets, estimated to be in excess of $80 million, should be distributed.

The court must now declare the validity of these documents and whether or not they can serve as Ms. Franklin’s true will. The discovery of the documents has also apparently created animosity amongst Franklin’s four sons. When the documents circulated among the sons, two of them refused to acknowledge them as Ms. Franklin’s will. If the documents are ruled to be invalid in court, Ms. Franklin will have passed away without a will and the four sons will receive equal shares of the estate.

One key reason experts will have trouble declaring if these documents are valid is the ambiguity of the writing. This is a common theme with handwritten wills as well as Do It Yourself Wills and why many advise against creating your own will. In fact, one of Ms. Franklin’s lawyers had even mentioned the importance of creating a will as well as a trust that would keep her financial details out of the hands of the public.

Ms. Franklin’s case is not the only instance where we have seen problems arise from not preparing a will with the advice of an attorney. This document is legally-binding and is the best way of ensuring your estate plan to distribute your assets. While it is never something that is pleasant to think about, it is never too early to prepare a will, and do what is best for you and the members of your family.

For more than 30 years, Attorney Lee A. Drizin has practiced in the areas of estate planning, probate, trusts, guardianship and real estate matters representing clients throughout the state of Nevada.

Drizin Law is providing this information for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. This information is based on general principles of Nevada law at the time it was created and you should be aware laws frequently change. Moreover, the laws affecting you may differ depending on the circumstances. You should consult with a qualified attorney in your own state or jurisdiction concerning your particular situation. Review of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.